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Archie Roach was a singer, songwriter, storyteller, and a gifted artist. Born at Framlingham Aboriginal Mission, Roach was taken from his family at an early age as part of the Stolen Generations. He spent some time in institutions before being fostered by a Scottish family. After learning of his Aboriginal family from a letter received from his sister, he left home. Suffering from alcoholism, Roach spent many years on the streets of Adelaide and Melbourne in search of his family and his identity. Roach met his partner Ruby Hunter, a Ngarrindjeri woman from South Australia. Hunter, a singer and songwriter, had also been removed from her family.
In the late 1980s, Roach formed a band called Altogether that played at community festivals and functions around Melbourne and in 1988 played as the opening act for Paul Kelly and the Messengers. In 1990, Roach recorded Charcoal Lane, which was produced by Paul Kelly and Steve Connolly. This album became famous for two songs: Took the Children Away, which was about the forced separation of Aboriginal children from their parents during the implementation of the assimilation policy, and Down City Streets, which was co-written by Ruby Hunter.
Roach has won Aria Awards, Best Indigenous Album and Best New Talent and later a Human Rights television award for Land of the Little Kings, a feature-length documentary about the Stolen Generations. This was a collaboration between independent filmmakers Paul Roberts and Des Kootji Raymond and narrated by Archie Roach. In July 1997, Roach recorded Looking for Butter Boy produced by Malcom Burn who acclaims Roach as one of the great singers. This album won three Aria Awards in 1998.
Together Roach and Hunter toured with many bands and artists over the years, including Paul Kelly, Weddings Parties Anything, Crowded House, and international artists such as Billy Bragg, Tracy Chapman, Suzanne Bega, and Patti Smith. In 1992, Roach toured America supporting Joan Armatrading and Bob Dylan and in 1993 returned as guests to Austin's South X South-West music convention. Roach toured the UK and Germany in 1994 and the following year, along with Hunter, Tiddas and Kev Carmody, toured Canada's Music West convention in Vancouver and into Europe. He again toured Europe in 1997 and also China, Japan and Taiwan before returning to Australia for a six week tour in remote communities in Cape York.
HarperCollins published an anthology of Roach's lyrics in 1994 called You Have the Power. In 2010, Roach's album Archie Roach - 1988 won the Deadly Award for Album of the Year and in 2013, Roach was inducted into the National Indigenous Music Awards Hall of Fame.
Over the years, Roach was a guest artist at many Indigenous Festivals across Australia and continued to work and be a representative for his community. He was active in many Aboriginal causes and continues to provide vocals for soundtracks for artists, albums, bands, and films.
Roach's sons have given permission for his name and image to continue to be used, to continue his legacy.
1989 - Koori (with Ruby Hunter)
1990 - Charcoal Lane
1993 - Jamu Dreaming
1997 - Looking for Butterboy
2002 - Sensual Being
2002 - The Tracker
2004 - The Definitive Collection
2005 - Ruby (with Ruby Hunter)
2007 - Journey
2009 - 1988
2012 - Into The Bloodstream
2016 - Let Love Rule
2018 - Dancing with My Spirit
2019 - Tell Me Why
2020 - The Songs of Charcoal Lane (re-recording of Charcoal Lane)
See also the entry for Archie Roach on the Victorian Indigenous Honour Roll: http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/indigenous/leadership/victorian-indigenous-honour-roll/victorian-indigenous-honour-roll-biographies/archie-roach
'‘There are many Australian stories, and mine is just one about what happened to me and other First Peoples of this country. It’s important for me to tell my story – because it’s not just part of my healing but of this country’s as well. We all have a story and as you read this book I would like you to think of your own story, what that means and who is also a part of your story.’
'In his inspirational, highly acclaimed memoir – and including reflections from First Nations Elders and young people – Archie Roach tells the story of his life and his music. Only two when he was forcibly removed from his family, and brought up by a series of foster parents until his early teens, Archie’s world imploded when he received a letter that spoke of a life he had no memory of. It took him almost a lifetime to find out who he really was.
'Tell Me Why is an unforgettable story of resilience, strength of spirit and hope.'
'One of the most powerful and highly anticipated Australian stories to be told.
'No one has lived as many lives as Archie Roach – stolen child, seeker, teenage alcoholic, lover, father, musical and lyrical genius, and leader – but it took him almost a lifetime to find out who he really was.
'Roach was only a few years old when he was forcibly removed from his family. Brought up by a series of foster parents until his early teens, his world imploded when he received a letter that spoke of a life he had no memory of.
'In this intimate, moving and often shocking memoir, Roach’s story is an extraordinary odyssey through love and heartbreak, family and community, survival and renewal – and the healing power of music. Overcoming enormous odds to find his story and his people, Roach voices the joy, pain and hope he found on his path through song to become the legendary singer-songwriter and storyteller that he is today – beloved by fans worldwide.
'Tell Me Why is a stunning account of resilience and the strength of spirit – and of a great love story.' (Publication summary)
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'"Took the Children Away", is a moving indictment of the treatment of indigenous children from the 'Stolen Generation' and a song which 'struck a chord' not only among the wider Aboriginal community, but also nationally. The song was awarded two ARIA Awards, as well as an international Human Rights Achievement Award, the first time this had been awarded to a songwriter because of a song. The album it came from featured in Rolling Stone magazine's Top 100 Albums for 1992.
'From the lyrics of this iconic song a very special book for children of all ages has been created. Featuring he heart wrenching lyrics of Archie Roach and the classic artwork of his late wife and soul-mate Ruby Hunter, this book is destined to become a masterpiece.
'Renowned Queensland artist, Peter Hudson has adorned the book with his stunning landscapes of South West Victoria - Archie's traditional lands.' (From the publisher's website.)